Why ugly? Ugly is when one of the elite 9-2 teams owes one third of its victories to nail biting, late game (and overtime) heroics against bottom feeding juggernauts; Lions and Texans and Browns (Oh, my!). And one of their losses was a shutout. The Steelers were 3-1 for November, but could have easily been 1-3. The Patriots suffer a beat down at hands of the Browns. Besides the usual surprises, disappointments and bizarre events that make up an NFL season, impressive won/loss records disguise flaws and uneven work. As we begin to turn into the home stretch the future is a fog. Who will show up this Sunday on either side of the ball?
Love letter to Hines Ward. I have always been impressed with Hines as a warrior, not always as a leader. He seemed to me to be a bit too deferential to others. He could have been much more ‘political' with his recent comments if he had wanted to play it safe, but that is not consistent with his character or Pittsburgh's (the team or the community). Pittsburgh doesn't do hypocrisy. As I am writing I would also expand these sentiments to include Troy Polamalu, another ‘quiet' leader who has found his voice in a dispute which day by day appears to involve a lot more and is more meaningful than it might appear on the surface. If you have been paying attention the entire Steelers organization are in line on the major issues. Let's be clear also that there are risks involved. Honesty invites enemies. And in a national environment where workers' rights have been continually subordinated to the desire of corporations to maximize their bottom lines it is a particularly courageous thing to do. I predict that not only will Hines be a lock for the HOF, but he will be the player most of us will be likely talk about to our grandchildren thirty years from now.
Note. Props should also be given to Player Rep Ryan Clark. He got the position when vastly overrated Charlie Batch (shout out to Pittsburgh Arn) was promoted to the Board of the Players Union. (Rumor has it that the promotion was a direct result of Batches eye opening performance against the Bucs earlier this year ;-) )
The Big Game. Folks are technically correct when they say that this week's game with the Ravens will not be the end of the world if we lose. However, it would place us in an adjacent zip code. Believe me; it will be a better holiday season, life will be much happier around BTSC if we just go ahead and win this game. If you want a very well done, detailed case for why the Steelers will prevail, I suggest you check out Michael Bean's recent piece. It's excellent. Let me just add the following: We win if we keep faith with the running attack. It is also time to pull the wraps off of the two back formation. Redman and Rashard are becoming beastly in tangent, particularly in the red zone. Conversely, don't let Rice and company get going. We win because of the seven teams that currently have the best chance of going to the playoffs, Flacco, with all of his talent and improvements would have to be ranked near the bottom of quarterbacks while Ben yields only to Peyton and Tom. Minimize mistakes (penalties and turnovers). Hope the Harrison police have a quiet night.
Kudos. Giving credit where credit is due.
Coaches Kugler and Mitchell. These two have been holding the O Line and D Line together with chicken wire, bubble gum and spit. Living in the considerable shadows of Tomlin, LeBeau and Arians these guys are not getting enough credit. My mother used to say that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but these two are coming close.
Shaun Suisham. Please don't get me wrong. The jury will be out on this guy for quite some time. But by making all of his kicks so far, he has helped us avoid what could have been a terrible distraction as any failure would have opened the door to questions about the wisdom of cutting Reed.
Willie Gay is having a really good year and he played really well against the Ravens earlier this year. Maybe Big Play Willie Gay is back.
Ramon Foster. Quietly getting It done.
Troy Polamalu. He had been quiet for a while. In the last two games it seems that he has got his mojo back
James Harrison. With all the controversy surrounding him he is, nonetheless, generating Defensive Player of the Year type numbers.
Coach Tomlin. Chess Master.